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The Oxford Bible Commentary Line-by-line commentary for the New Revised Standard Version Bible.

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Commentary on 2 Chronicles

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Solomon's Rule over the United Kingdom (2 Chr 1:1–9:31 )

The Beginnings of Solomon's Reign (2 Chr 1:1–17 )

The Chronicler ignores the confusion surrounding David's successor, beginning this chapter, after an introductory note in v. 1 , with the sacrifice made by Solomon and God's appearance to him at Gibeon. He simultaneously extends and shortens his source model material. As is his habit, he organizes the procession to Gibeon democratically. At the same time he creates a close link between the tabernacle and the temple in Jerusalem, which does not exist in 1 Kings 3 . The extended scene at Gibeon in this chapter is a shortened version of the source model which has then been enriched with the Chronicler's own theology. vv. 3–13 contain a ‘theology of the sanctuary’ in a nutshell.

In the source model, God's appearance at Gibeon is followed by the story of Solomon's judgement. It allows Solomon to display the wisdom that has just been bestowed upon him. As with all pieces in the source concerning Solomon's wisdom, the Chronicler omits this episode. While some exegetes claim that the passage taken from 1 Kings 10:26–9 describing Solomon's wealth (vv. 14–17 ) is used to stress Solomon's wisdom, others argue that this insertion serves the purpose of proving that Solomon had the necessary wealth to construct the temple. (David had, however, already supplied the necessary materials.) The passage is repeated in an only slightly altered form in 9:25–8 , at the end of Solomon's rule. This repetition underlines the importance the Chronicler attached to wealth (and thus power) as signs of God's blessing.

( 1:1–13 ) Solomon's Sacrifice and Prayer at Gibeon

vv. 3–5 , the Chronicler attempts to unite all legitimate cultic sites and the most important cultic objects. Solomon begins his reign by concerning himself with the cult once he has secured his accession—just as David did. The priestly theology of the Pentateuch concentrates on the tabernacle bearing the ark at its centre, whilst the historical texts focus entirely on the ark. The Chronicler combines both perspectives, underlining the presence of the tabernacle as the temple's precursor. It is stressed that Moses created the tabernacle in the desert. The tabernacle which is mentioned earlier in 1 Chr 16:39; 21:29 must be distinguished from the tent for the ark that David erects in Jerusalem. v. 9 , the Chronicler no doubt deliberately turns ‘a great people, so numerous they cannot be numbered or counted’ (1 Kings 3:8 ) into ‘a people as numerous as the dust of the earth’: the same address is made to Jacob (i.e. Israel), the most important founding father in Chronicles (Gen 28:14 ). Despite shortening his source material, the Chronicler adds a new element here, namely the reference to a promise of an eternal dynasty made to his father (‘let your promise to my father David now be fulfilled’; cf. 1 Chr 17:11–12 ). This reflection back to David can also be found in v. 1 , where Solomon is pointedly introduced as David's son.

( 1:14–17 ) Solomon's Wealth

vv. 14–17 , Solomon's riches here are almost identical with the source model (1 Kings 10:26–9 ).

Construction of the Temple (2 Chr 1:18–7:22 )

( 1:18–2:17 ) Solomon's Contract with Hiram of Tyre

Solomon eagerly engages in his father's (and not the Phoenician king's) construction project. Unlike the author of his source material, the Chronicler takes every step to diminish the Tyrian's contribution to the temple's construction. Above all he states that Solomon is stronger and more important than Hiram. The temple he erects is both a sacrificial site and God's residence. This explains the strong emendations the Chronicler makes to his source model. Narrative elements almost entirely give way to speech and letters. vv. 2–9 , in Solomon's message to Hiram he makes the initial move and keeps the initiative. This skilfully structured passage actually contains temple and temple-cult theology. The temple clearly appears to be the second tabernacle. v. 3 , Solomon names everything pertaining to the temple cult here, ordered on the basis of the Pentateuch: see amongst others Ex 30:1–8; Lev 24:5–9; Num 28–9 . vv. 4–5 , the Chronicler uses an adapted argument from the dedicatory prayer in 6:18 . He is less concerned with God's transcendence than with his own subjective inability to build a house for God. He must do this, however, in order to make sacrifices to God. v. 6 , the man sent by Hiram should—unlike in the source material—not only be skilled in carpentry, but also understand other crafts and be able to work with various materials (note e.g. the curtain in 3:14 which does not appear in the source). He is the equivalent of Bezalel and his assistant Oholiab, who constructed the tabernacle (cf. Ex 31:1–8 ). The Chronicler creates another parallel with David here: just as he worked together with the Phoenicians (1 Chr 22:4 ) so does his son Solomon here. It is, however, made clear that foreign craftsmen do not build the temple alone. They work under the auspices of masters stemming from Judah and Jerusalem (the two names are often employed for the post-exilic temple community). vv. 10–15 , letters as part of historic works are known from Greek (and Roman) historiography. The Chronicler is perhaps orientating his text by them. v. 14 , ‘my lord’: this statement completely endorses Solomon's supremacy over Hiram. v. 15 , Joppa is an important post-exilic Israelite port (if not the most important, Jon 1:3; Ezra 3:7 ). Ezra 3:7 , which also concerns trading relations with the Phoenicians (Sidon and Tyre), is probably the source for this passage. Above all it explicitly mentions Lebanese wood being transported across the sea to Joppa. v. 16 , the possible interpretation of 1 Kings 9:22 (cf. 5:29 ), by which no Israelites were employed as forced labourers, becomes a certainty here. In keeping with the general tendency of Chronicles, the foreigners are no longer regarded as such, since they have such a close relationship with the people of Israel. Again the Chronicler stresses that Solomon acts like his father (1 Chr 22:2 ).

( 3:1–17 ) Construction of the Temple: Measurements, Holy of Holies, Interior Decoration

However much the Chronicler wished to legitimize the temple as a place of worship, he comments much more briefly on its construction and interior decoration than his source text, though keeping its structure. The report in 1 Kings 6 was greatly reworked, resulting in a rather poor piece of literature. This may have been one reason for the Chronicler's alterations. Another reason could be his lack of interest in God's dwelling as a building. It is impossible to say by what criteria he shortens this passage. He occasionally concentrates on the central theme, whilst noting details (which he perhaps knew from the second temple) elsewhere. The Chronicler often draws parallels between the temple and the desert tabernacle. This chapter even links it with Abraham. Many parts of this text are unclear or even spoilt, especially concerning the measurements. This commentary only touches upon such a technically complicated subject.

vv. 1–2 , the author of the books of Kings calculates dates not only from the year of Solomon's accession, but also by the Exodus, which is important to Deuteronomistic historiographers. This emphasis is greatly reduced in Chronicles. The Chronicler is not as interested in the exact date of the temple's construction (omitting the month Ziv as recorded in 1 Kings 6:1 ), as in its exact position and its authentication: YHWH appeared to David on Mount Moriah, and the king fixed its place which was confirmed by YHWH who sent fire from heaven on the altar of burnt offering. The name of Mount Moriah appears elsewhere only in the story of Isaac's sacrifice (Gen 22:2 ), which clearly contains hidden references to the temple of Jerusalem. Moriah can be interpreted in folk etymology as ‘appearance of the Lord’. Since YHWH has already appeared to David, the Chronicler can use this element to develop a motif which has its roots in Gen 22 . (The Samaritans identify their holy Mount Gerizim as the mountain upon which Isaac was to be sacrificed, although only much later; however, v. 3 does not contain any polemic content directed against the Samaritans.)

vv. 6–7 , perhaps there was a mosaic made with precious stones on the floor (cf. 1 Chr 29:2 ).

From v. 8 onwards, the parallels between the temple and the tabernacle become stronger, as the repeated phrase ‘he made’, which characterizes the report in Exodus, emphasizes. v. 9 , ‘nails…of gold’: fifty shekels of gold is far too much for one nail and too little for all of them. This is probably a symbolic number (cf. 2 Sam 24:24 ). The fact that such small objects as nails are mentioned at all could suggest that a relatively small amount of gold was used for the second temple. These golden nails have certain parallels with the (differently named) golden nails in Ex 26:32, 37 . v. 10 , unlike his source, the Chronicler does not mention the height of the cherubim, instead stressing the art with which they were constructed and the gold used to cover them. He values quality above all. vv. 11–13 , again, unlike the source, this text gives a more exact impression of the cherubims' position. This addition may have been due to the Chronicler's desire to be precise. v. 14 , the source does not mention a curtain in Solomon's temple. Was it originally mentioned in 1 Kings 6:21b and later lost? According to Josephus (J.W. 5.5.5) a curtain certainly existed in the second temple. In any case the curtain reminds us strongly of the tabernacle (Ex 26:31 ).

( 4:1–5:1 ) Further Interior Decoration

By contrast to his reworking of previous passages, the Chronicler followed his source model in 1 Kings 7:39–50 closely to produce 4:10–22 , which has led some commentators to suggest that this passage is a later insertion intended to bring Chronicles closer to Kings and to add omitted material. This is supported by several contradictions to ch. 3 in this section (cf. e.g. 3:16 with 4:12 ). (The Chronicler's description of the temple's construction omits references to gates (1 Kings 6:31–5 ), probably because the curtain replaced them; they reappear in 4:22 (1 Kings 7:50 ).) The theory is flawed for two reasons, however: such an insertion or gloss would also have been necessary elsewhere and there is no specific reason for changing this section alone. Japhet (1993: 562) takes a different line, pointing out that the Chronicler adhered strictly to his source model for orientation—even using its order of events—whilst omitting some parts and making other additions: 1 Kings 7:23–6 corresponds to 2 Chr 4:2–5; 1 Kings 7:27–37 is omitted from 2 Chronicles; 1 Kings 7:38 corresponds to 2 Chr 4:6; 1 Kings 7:38–9a is reworked at 2 Chr 4:6aa , but vv. 6ab–9 have no origin in Kings, and 1 Kings 7:39b–51 corresponds to 2 Chr 4:10–5:1 .

This gives the literary action in ch. 4 a clear unity. The attempt at a solution cannot, however, explain why the Chronicler was prepared to take so many contradictions into account (though this is also the case elsewhere). It is notable that the Chronicler omits the (lengthy) passage concerning the stands for the basins, though they reappear in v. 14 . Perhaps the figures upon them seemed too heathen for the Chronicler! His insertion of vv. 7–10 disturbs the more convincing order of his source text. He seems keen to add some golden implements at this point of the text.

v. 1 , the bronze altar appears only later in the source model (1 Kings 8:64; 2 Kings 16:14–15 ). The style of the description here (including mention of measures) is more typical of 1 Kings. This leads to the suggestion that this section was lost from 1 Kings 7 over the course of time. The altar, probably made of wood and covered with bronze, was an impressive size. The measures mentioned probably refer to the base. v. 6 , the basins' original function is unclear: they seem to have been related to cosmological symbolism and were thus heathen in the eyes of the Chronicler. He claims them to be Israelite in order to allow him to refer back to Ex 30:17–21 , where a copper basin is used for ceremonial washing, thus integrating them into the sacrificial cult.

vv. 7–9 , the Chronicler uses the list of golden materials in 1 Kings 7:48–50 (cf. vv. 19–22 ) earlier than his source model, presenting them in the order of his own (original) list in 1 Chr 28:15–18 . v. 7 , the tabernacle was equipped with only one lampstand (Ex 25:31 ), an interesting similarity to 13:11 . v. 8 , in both the tabernacle (Ex 25:23–30 ) and Solomon's temple (1 Kings 7:48 ) the number of tables was not ten, but one. By contrast to the one table (Ex 25; 1 Kings 7 ) and the Chronicler's shewbread tables (1 Chr 28:16 ), these are not explicitly characterized as covered in gold—a surprise, given the Chronicler's love of the material. v. 9, 1 Kings 6:36 mentions the inner courtyard only briefly. In keeping with the values of the time, the Chronicler distinguishes clearly between the priests' court and the precinct for laymen.

( 5:2–6:2 ) The Ark's Installation

The Chronicler made extensive cuts to his report on the temple's construction, as a comparison with his source model shows. Apart from 1 Kings 8:53–61 , he does, however, use everything in Kings relating to its consecration, even adding his own material. Whilst 1 Kings 8–9 consists almost entirely of speeches, there are more narrative elements in its equivalent passage in Chronicles. Ch. 5 follows its source in Kings quite closely, though it includes a festive ceremony celebrating the ark's placement in the temple. YHWH then takes (provisional) possession of the temple and his magnificence is hailed.

5:4 , the Chronicler replaces the ark-bearing priests with Levites, thereby conforming with Moses' instructions in Deut 10:8; 31:25 and David's orders in 1 Chr 15:2 (leaving the priests with the more important sacrificial duties). As v. 7 and 29:16 show, Levites are forbidden to enter the most holy place. 5:11–13 , the Chronicler cannot imagine that the final act of placing the ark in the most holy place was not accompanied by a ceremony. He therefore creates one himself. It lacks nothing that he values and is uplifting. All participants are sanctified (cf. 1 Chr 15:14 ) and all three musician families are present, singing and playing. Their cries, ‘For he is good, for his steadfast love endures for ever’ (cf. 1 Chr 16:41 ), are especially close to the Chronicler's heart. Everything occurs unanimously (resembling the support for David in 1 Chr 12:39 ). 5:13 , only once music has begun does a cloud fill the house—one which must have reminded the Chronicler of the cloud which came down on the tent of meeting in the desert (e.g. Num 12:5 ). 6:1 , the Chronicler simplifies the scarcely comprehensible text in his source model, keeping only the idea that God wished to dwell in darkness. The Hebrew expression for this links it with God's manifestation on Mt. Sinai (Ex 20:21; Deut 4:11; 5:22 ), which must have suited the Chronicler. God now appears at his eternal cultic residence.

( 6:3–42 ) Consecration of the Temple; King's Speech; Dedicatory Prayer

After a doxology, the first part of this chapter deals with the choice of Jerusalem and David and the temple's construction. The promises given by YHWH regarding them have been fulfilled. The second part of the chapter contains a lengthy prayer, or rather a prayer-formula (and a prayer-theory) that refers particularly to the perilous situation of the individual and the people (vv. 32–3 are concerned with foreigners). Only the chapter's conclusion and its final plea differ greatly from its source model. The Chronicler follows 1 Kings 8 so closely because the subject-matter is also central to his own theological perspective (David's dynasty and the temple). Furthermore, the perilous situations described in the prayer-formula are both timeless and also may have been a contemporary problem (to some extent) for the Chronicler.

vv. 24–39 , According to Williamson (1987: 219) vv. 24–5, 34–5, 36–9 could be a reference to the revolution against the Persians led by Tennes the Sidonian, which resulted in deportation to Hyrcania, Babylon, and elsewhere. vv. 32–3 , in the time between the conception of Kings and the Chronicler's own lifetime, the significance of foreigners to the people of Israel had increased; this led to a changed theological perspective on God's attitude towards them. They are clearly given the opportunity of turning to God here. vv. 34–9 , the theme of imprisonment plays a central role in this passage. The author of the source model in 1 Kings 8 had the (Babylonian) Exile in mind, which had developed into a diaspora (in Babylon and Egypt) by the Chronicler's time. This changed situation is reflected in the unspecific nature of the Chronicler's call to help those still living abroad. 1 Kings 8:50 (‘and grant them compassion in the sight of their captors, so that they may have compassion on them’) can be seen as a call for them to return to the holy land. Such a return is not appropriate for the diaspora of the Chronicler's time. He also omits mention of the Exodus here and in Solomon's concluding plea. Interestingly, however, 1 Kings 8:50 is taken up again in the letter written by Hezekiah to the rest of the northern kingdom ( 30:9 ). v. 40 , the Chronicler keeps only a bare skeleton of the source model's plea, deleting the reference to the Exodus and therefore to Moses.

vv. 41–2 , by contrast to the source model, Solomon's prayer ends positively. Here, the Chronicler takes Ps 132:8–10 and greatly changes it to enhance the central themes of his own theology by highlighting the importance of the ark and the anointed. Peace and calm under Solomon's reign are the prerequisites for the temple's construction. Only Solomon (not David) can supply them. Once the temple has been constructed God can be at rest. The psalm passage also refers to the priests who play a central role in the (Chronicler's) temple cult. It includes the terms ‘salvation’ (source model: ‘righteousness’), rejoice (source model: ‘shout for joy’), goodness, all of which are central themes for the Chronicler, though he only touches on them here.

( 7:1–22 ) Conclusion of the Ceremony and God's Covenant for the Temple

By a series of omissions and additions, the Chronicler changes his source material (1 Kings 8–9 ) to give the narrative a more flowing and logical structure. He deletes 1 Kings 8:54–61 , much of which is a paraenetic warning conforming with the Chronicler's own principles. In v. 55 , Solomon blesses his people, a privilege reserved for priests in post-exilic society. The main reason for the omission of this relatively long passage lies in the Chronicler's wish to report on God's positive response to the plea expressed in 6:41 , most importantly his acceptance of the temple as his own. He thus describes God's descent upon the temple in the Chronicler's own material in vv. 1–3 . The Chronicler subsequently returns to his source model for orientation, though he cannot resist mentioning the musical duties of the Levites in connection with the sacrifices performed (v. 6 ). vv. 13–15 form a third substantial addition to the source text, in which YHWH does not summarize his response (as in Kings), but actually uses some of the dedicatory prayer's language in his reply.

vv. 1–3 legitimize the sacrifices, the altar, and the temple. This section applies Lev 9:(22)23–4 to the temple. (The people's blessing as performed by Moses and Aaron in v. 23 is omitted, however.) The tabernacle and the temple are two forms of the same holy place. YHWH's glory took provisional possession of the temple in 5:13–14 and was described in similar terms. Here, there is the added element of an endorsing fire which falls from the heavens. These events are witnessed not only by the religious élite, but also by all the Israelites, since God's glory does not only fill the temple, but is also above it (cf. also Ex 40:34 for v. 2 ). Williamson (1987: 222) goes against the general consensus by claiming that this report does refer back to 5:13–14 , and that v. 2 ought to be translated as an adverbial sentence in English: ‘and during all this time the glory of YHWH still filled the temple’.

vv. 8–10 , in 1 Kings 8:66 , the celebration surrounding the temple's dedication and the Feast of Tabernacles, lasting seven days, seem to be simultaneous. This impression is corrected at the end of the previous verse (‘seven days and seven days, even fourteen days’—there were two separate feasts) and the Chronicler removes any remaining doubt on this. According to his version the temple dedication and the Feast of Tabernacles cannot possibly take place simultaneously: the temple dedication takes place from the 8th to the 14th of the seventh month, whilst the Feast of Tabernacles lasts from the 15th until the 21st of the same month. The concluding feast (as in Lev 23:36, 39 ) is on the 22nd, so that Solomon can dismiss the festive community on the 23rd, as stated in v. 10 . The Chronicler's Solomon adheres strictly to the festal calendar according to the Pentateuch, Moses' law. v. 11 grandly concludes the section in Chronicles, whilst the parallel text in its source model opens the following section. It is an opportunity to deliver one of the Chronicler's favourite messages: since Solomon behaves in an exemplary manner, his every undertaking succeeds.

v. 14 , there are four ways in which the Israelites could move YHWH to action: humility, prayer, seeking his face, and turning from wicked ways. These become repeated themes in the following chapters. vv. 17–22 , a form of theodicy: it explains the Davidic monarchy's collapse and the temple's destruction. v. 18 . In an important alteration from the source model, the Chronicler turns ‘a successor on the throne of Israel’ (1 Kings 9:5 ) into ‘a successor to rule over Israel’. Should this phrase (which is taken from Mic 5:1 ) imply messianic undertones? if it does, could it be that the Chronicler did not necessarily require the Messiah to be a king? This would mean that an exemplary high priest could have taken this position at the time of the Chronicler. v. 18 contradicts this theory, since the Chronicler deletes the phrase ‘over Israel for ever’ from his source. In v. 19 , he omits the phrase ‘or your children’, thereby invoking the responsibilities of the present generation.

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